Arson suspected in fire damaging historic landmark at Joshua Tree

Officials are opening an arson investigation into a fire at Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California. The fire, which began Monday, March 26, 2018, night, is under investigation by the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the San Bernardino County Fire Department, the park service said.

SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY, Calif. — Officials are opening an arson investigation into a fire at Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California.

The fire, which began Monday night, is under investigation by the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the San Bernardino County Fire Department, the park service said.

The 2.5-acre blaze largely affected the Oasis of Mara, which the park service calls the “cornerstone” of the park’s story.

Legend has it that the Native American Serrano tribe, believed to have first settled the area, did so on the instructions of a medicine man, who told the tribe members to plant a palm tree each time a boy was born; they purportedly planted 29 their first year there.

Dramatic photos taken by Steve Raines show a number of palm trees and other vegetation ablaze in the area.

Park service staff are evaluating the extent of the damage to the site after the fire was contained. A preliminary assessment found that while no structures were damaged, there was damage to “multiple natural resources, including palms and other vegetation, and wildlife, as well as potential impact to archaeological resources.”